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This attractively packaged atlas of Mormonism is described by the prestigious publisher as "a unique combination of maps and narrative . . . useful to anyone who has an interest in American history in general and in this American religious institution in particular."

Amen.Undeniably, the history of Mormonism is central to the local histories of communities from New York to Missouri, Illinois and Iowa to New Mexico, Utah to California, and Canada to Mexico. In fact, the past 40 years have brought a transition of the LDS Church from an American institution to a worldwide one.

Since it has been estimated that by the year 2020 over 70 percent of the members of the LDS Church will reside outside the United States and Canada, the publication of an atlas seems especially appropriate. Indeed, the three Brigham Young University professors who acted as editors have done an excellent job in assembling and editing 74 articles, each with a bibliography and at least one two-color map. Contributions from 54 writers are included.

The atlas describes and illustrates Mormon history and practice and includes sections on migration routes, settlements, worldwide mission centers, population distribution, voting patterns, paths of the early missionaries, sites and frequencies of Doctrine and Covenants revelations, historic sites, visitors' centers and international expansion.

What more could anyone ask?

The individual essays also center on the accomplishments of many of the principal leaders of Mormonism, such as Joseph Smith Jr., Brigham Young, Eliza R. Snow and David O. McKay.

The contributors comprise some of the more respected names in Mormon scholarship - historians such as Leonard Arrington, Ronald Esplin, Stanley Kimball, Dean May and Jan Shipps; and geographers such as Ben Bennion, Richard Jackson, Lynn Rosenvall, Dale Stevens and Wayne Wahlquist.

Each essay fills out a single page and is written in a direct, lively, down-to-earth style, including significant names and dates as well as a valuable, meticulously drawn map on the opposite page.

The initial essay, for instance, by S. Kent Brown, one of the editors, is titled "Birthplaces of Church Leaders, 1830-1840." Brown effectively describes the birthplaces of Joseph Smith Jr., Emma Hale, the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's counselors in the First Presidency and the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Then the opposite page places each person on a map.

In one of the later essays, "David O. McKay's Worldwide Travels," Lavina Fielding Anderson makes the amazing travel schedule of one of the best known Mormon prophets come alive. It is not only instructive in detail, but it elucidates the warm, charismatic style of a leader of exceptional stamina.

Other essays deal with such vital topics as the church on the early 19th-century frontier; the Hill Cumorah; Palmyra, N.Y.; early missionary journeys, the earliest congregations; the northern Ohio settlements; missionary journeys to foreign countries; the first gathering to Zion; the expulsion from Missouri; Nauvoo, Ill.; Salt Lake City and the Mormon Trail.

Modern topics include Saints of the Western states; distribution of world membership in 1992; missions and missionary training centers; historic sites and tourism; welfare projects and educational institutions; temples; the church's ethnic makeup in the 20th century, and the emergence of Mormonism on the American landscape.

There is little missing here. Each essay is thoroughly researched and analyzed by the most qualified scholars available.

This atlas is unquestionably an indispensable reference work for the student of Mormonism. It is also interesting to read in its entirety or selectively to satisfy a personal or scholarly research interest. It is an academic accomplishment of the first order and is likely to become a classic in its field.